Flying High

A new zipline operation on Maui takes the experience to new heights

By: By Marty Wentzel

The Details

Piiholo Ranch Zipline

The three-hour, five-line adventure costs $190 per person, while the two-hour, four-line outing costs $140. The walk-along adventure is priced at $25. Snacks and beverages are provided.

The per-person rate for the Tango Tower is $95 (1½ hours, a six-person minimum). Clients can combine a zipline adventure with the Tango Tower and receive a $20 discount.

Zipline participants must be at least 10 years old and weigh between 75 and 275 pounds, and Tango Tower clients must weigh at least 60 pounds. The tour is not for pregnant women, people with back problems or people who have a serious medical condition. Closed-toe shoes are required. Some moderate to advanced physical activity and stair climbing is expected.

Commission: 15 percent

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Ziplines have become all the rage in Hawaii, but with each new operation comes a little something different. In the case of Piiholo Ranch Zipline, a new attraction on Maui, the big selling point is that clients can fly alongside each other thanks to its system of tandem lines.


 Piiholo Ranch offers rare, tandem ziplines. // © 2009 Piiholo Ranch Zipline

Open since December of last year, the attraction is situated above the cowboy town of Makawao. Piiholo Ranch Zipline owners, brothers Jeff, Duke and Chris Baldwin, are descendants of the legendary seven-generation Baldwin ranching family on Maui. Their father, Peter, is a competitive team roper, polo champion and member of the Paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) Hall of Fame. Together, they have built one of the country’s longest and most ecologically sensitive ziplines. With nearly three miles of thrills, it boasts the longest zipline in Hawaii, with heights up to 600 feet and speeds of up to 40 miles per hour.

Clients should know ahead of time that this zipline experience requires moderate activity and plenty of climbing. Right off the bat, the group crosses a 317-foot-long suspension bridge. Throughout the tour, they have to walk up ladders and steps.

“There’s always one person in the group who’s hesitant about participating,” said Jeff Baldwin. “I credit my staff for taking the time to give one-on-one coaching and helping people overcome their fears. We do several stages of safety briefings, and the guides determine the comfort level of each participant.

“This is a course that goes beyond physical challenges,” Baldwin added. “By tackling a zipline adventure, clients can address all sorts of issues in their lives, from feelings to phobias.”

Piiholo Ranch’s first suspension bridge leads to a station with four lines running side-by-side. As the only quadruple zipline in Hawaii, it spans 480 feet from a freestanding tower to a grassy meadow below. The second zipline is 1,065 feet in length and crosses over a lush, tropical valley of guava, kukui nut trees and various types of ferns. Zipline three is 690 feet long and crosses back over the valley to a treehouse area with a stunning view of Maui’s north shore.

Guests booked on the four-line package soar the final 725 feet of their adventure and land near the check-in area. Guests on the five-line tour, however, zip 1,420 feet to the base of Piiholo Hill, after which a ranch vehicle transports them to the top of the rise for the 2,800-foot grand finale.

Piiholo Ranch keeps its groups to no more than 12 people so that guests can get to know each other and their guides.

“Our staff is a great group of energetic outdoor enthusiasts,” said Baldwin. “Although their number-one goal is keeping you safe, they are fun people who keep clients entertained while answering their questions and educating them about the local flora and fauna.”

For clients who wish to keep two feet on the ground, the ranch also offers a guided walk-along tour, a good option for the vacation photographer who also wants to learn about the area’s ecosystem.

For corporate groups and families, Piiholo Ranch offers an additional feature called the Tango Tower, an adventure-climbing structure consisting of seven challenges. Available to groups of at least six people, the 42-foot-tall tower provides opportunities for team-building and communication exercises. At one station, partners work together to climb on beams positioned progressively farther apart. During a solo challenge, each person climbs a suspended telephone pole using climbing holds. Yet another station requires clients to climb two faces, including one with several overhangs.

Baldwin said the ranch is looking to add low rope elements, so younger children who don’t meet the zipline weight requirements can still take part in a Piiholo Ranch experience.

“There’s no pass or fail in this,” said Baldwin. “I just want people to have a good time, learn about our island and see unique landscapes. I hope people will leave saying that this is the best zipline experience they’ve ever been on — or better yet, this is the best thing they did on Maui.”